A young family facing ''financial ruin'' must be given the
same consideration as the protection of ecological values on
Hawea Flat land, it was submitted in the Environment Court in
A hearing is being held this week to consider cancellation of
an interim enforcement order requiring farmer Dougal Innes to
stop clearance of native vegetation on land he has a purchase
agreement on above the Clutha River at Hawea Flat.
Mr Innes has already cleared a large amount of vegetation and
carried out discing on the land, which has been assessed by
government departments as having high conservation values.
The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand
deemed Mr Innes' actions illegal and successfully applied to
the Environment Court for the interim enforcement order.
It was served on Mr Innes, as respondent, and the Queenstown
Lakes District Council earlier this month, around the same
time the council issued an abatement notice on Mr Innes.
However, in written legal submissions, Mr Innes' lawyer Jan
Caunter said her client had consulted the council and was at
no stage advised he needed resource consent.
''If we had somebody who had flagrantly breached the
[district] plan that would be quite different. But that is
not what has occurred here,'' Ms Caunter told the court.
''... It is submitted that the information provided to Mr
Innes by the council and the implication that no resource
consent was required is relevant to the court's assessment.''
The court needed to consider not only the potential for
damage to any indigenous vegetation on the site, but the
impact on Mr Innes of not being able to complete the
cultivation work, which would leave him with ''no reasonable
use of his land'', Ms Caunter said.
''Mr Innes and his young family are facing financial ruin if
the land is protected from further development,'' her written
summary of background facts stated.
Forest and Bird lawyer Peter Anderson said the effects on the
environment of cancelling the interim enforcement order were
a ''critical'' consideration and should be the focus, rather
than the effects on the parties.
He said if there was a strong case for an enforcement order
and if there was likely to be significant irreparable adverse
effects if the interim order was cancelled, there would need
to be a ''highly compelling reason'' for its cancellation.
Ms Caunter said given the ''significant'' level of
disagreement among the lawyers, planners and ecologists
involved in the case on how the district plan rules relating
to indigenous vegetation should be interpreted, it would be
especially difficult for a layperson such as Mr Innes to
accurately interpret them.
''There are lots of different ways of looking at the rule and
that in itself is causing me great concern, that we have a
rule in the plan that nobody understands.''
Judge John Hassan instructed ecologists acting for Mr Innes,
Forest and Bird and the council to jointly respond to a
series of questions aimed at providing clarity on the
definition of indigenous vegetation. They will report back to
the court today.
The hearing is expected to continue until Thursday, when the
court will issue a verbal decision on whether the interim
enforcement order is to be confirmed or cancelled.
Dairy farmer James Cooper, a neighbour of the site, and
Federated Farmers are interested parties in the court